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MaxwellAlum

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  1. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from bj430 in Looking for some opinions about the dreaded four letter word: debt   
    It's very personal and depends a bit on where you are in life and your willingness to be in debt for a LONG time.  For me, having between $40-50k in loans with a standard starting government salary ($50k-ish) is manageable because (not having a ton of other expenses) I am able to make noticeable dents in my balance.  A $50k balance accrues about $225 in interest every month with the current 5.41% interest rate, and the monthly payment on a standard 10-year repayment plan is $540.  With a salary of $50k your take-home pay might be $2,700-$2,900 each month depending on taxes, health insurance and retirement contributions.  If you are a single person without a lot of other expenses, you can likely make the $540 payment and maybe some extra, and still save a bit of money each month/afford a car payment.
     
    If you have a loan balance of $80k, the standard monthly payment for the 10-year plan is $860 (and of that $360-ish is interest starting out). I imagine that would really be tough for most people on a $50k salary, as that starts to really crowd out any room for savings, car payments, retirement, etc.  And yes, your salary will increase some, but you'll likely not want to throw all your raises into your loans (maybe you'll want a better apartment, kids, a house, save more for retirement, etc.).
     
    The income-based repayment plans do allow you to make payments that are manageable no matter what your balance is, and that gives you the option of prioritizing other things.  Student loans are great in terms of the flexibility in repayment.  The problem is that if these payments don't cover at least a very large portion of the interest, then your loan balance will be growing significantly as time goes by, which is scary.  Unless you actually miss payments your credit score will be fine, and you may be able to get loan forgiveness after 10 or 20/25 years through Public Service Loan Forgiveness/IBR, but relying on these programs being available a decade+ from now can feel stressful, and the debt may keep you from things like qualifying for mortgage.
     
    I am very, very glad I attended the school that offered me more funding as my other option was to take on six-figure debt.  Of course I wish I had less/no debt ($50k is still a very large balance), but I absolutely believe that the investment was worthwhile.  I agree with others that if the choice is between a big-name school and six-figure debt versus a another reputable school with lots of funding, hands down take the funding.
  2. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from TeeCo10 in Looking for some opinions about the dreaded four letter word: debt   
    It's very personal and depends a bit on where you are in life and your willingness to be in debt for a LONG time.  For me, having between $40-50k in loans with a standard starting government salary ($50k-ish) is manageable because (not having a ton of other expenses) I am able to make noticeable dents in my balance.  A $50k balance accrues about $225 in interest every month with the current 5.41% interest rate, and the monthly payment on a standard 10-year repayment plan is $540.  With a salary of $50k your take-home pay might be $2,700-$2,900 each month depending on taxes, health insurance and retirement contributions.  If you are a single person without a lot of other expenses, you can likely make the $540 payment and maybe some extra, and still save a bit of money each month/afford a car payment.
     
    If you have a loan balance of $80k, the standard monthly payment for the 10-year plan is $860 (and of that $360-ish is interest starting out). I imagine that would really be tough for most people on a $50k salary, as that starts to really crowd out any room for savings, car payments, retirement, etc.  And yes, your salary will increase some, but you'll likely not want to throw all your raises into your loans (maybe you'll want a better apartment, kids, a house, save more for retirement, etc.).
     
    The income-based repayment plans do allow you to make payments that are manageable no matter what your balance is, and that gives you the option of prioritizing other things.  Student loans are great in terms of the flexibility in repayment.  The problem is that if these payments don't cover at least a very large portion of the interest, then your loan balance will be growing significantly as time goes by, which is scary.  Unless you actually miss payments your credit score will be fine, and you may be able to get loan forgiveness after 10 or 20/25 years through Public Service Loan Forgiveness/IBR, but relying on these programs being available a decade+ from now can feel stressful, and the debt may keep you from things like qualifying for mortgage.
     
    I am very, very glad I attended the school that offered me more funding as my other option was to take on six-figure debt.  Of course I wish I had less/no debt ($50k is still a very large balance), but I absolutely believe that the investment was worthwhile.  I agree with others that if the choice is between a big-name school and six-figure debt versus a another reputable school with lots of funding, hands down take the funding.
  3. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from gradytripp in Funding   
    I'm a recent public administration grad with about $50,000 in federal student loans, and I'm of two minds about this.  On the one hand, federal student loans (not private loans) have a lot of flexibility in terms of repayment.  You can choose to have your payments based on your income, so that helps if you want to take a job with a less than ideal salary.  Also, if you do go into public service, you may be able to get some relief via the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (the Obama administration recently proposed some changes to this: http://www.edcentral.org/obama-administration-announces-major-reforms-income-based-repayment/ )  Because of these options I don't feel particularly overwhelmed with my student loans.  Of course it would be great not to dish out a couple hundred bucks every month, but my degree has made a world of difference in getting me on the career track I want to be on.     That said, student loans are not only a huge pain administratively (the servicers that you have to deal with to repay your loans are awful), but they can possibly affect your finances in other ways, such as preventing you from qualifying for a mortgage (I'm not an expert on this).  Also, if your hope is to repay your loans as quickly as possible, bear in mind that with this year's interest rates on direct unsubsidized loans (5.41%), just the amount of interest that accrues every month on a $50,000 balance is over $200.  So that's going to limit how much you can pay back.  Personally, I would never recommend anybody take on six figure debt for public policy school, for starters because the amount of interest that accrues on that by itself can be overwhelming on a public sector salary.  It can definitely be managed (especially with income-based repayment), but definitely think about how much you expect to be making after grad school and what your other financial goals will be such as buying a house or saving for retirement.
  4. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from thrtyfutsmurf in Funding   
    I'm a recent public administration grad with about $50,000 in federal student loans, and I'm of two minds about this.  On the one hand, federal student loans (not private loans) have a lot of flexibility in terms of repayment.  You can choose to have your payments based on your income, so that helps if you want to take a job with a less than ideal salary.  Also, if you do go into public service, you may be able to get some relief via the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (the Obama administration recently proposed some changes to this: http://www.edcentral.org/obama-administration-announces-major-reforms-income-based-repayment/ )  Because of these options I don't feel particularly overwhelmed with my student loans.  Of course it would be great not to dish out a couple hundred bucks every month, but my degree has made a world of difference in getting me on the career track I want to be on.     That said, student loans are not only a huge pain administratively (the servicers that you have to deal with to repay your loans are awful), but they can possibly affect your finances in other ways, such as preventing you from qualifying for a mortgage (I'm not an expert on this).  Also, if your hope is to repay your loans as quickly as possible, bear in mind that with this year's interest rates on direct unsubsidized loans (5.41%), just the amount of interest that accrues every month on a $50,000 balance is over $200.  So that's going to limit how much you can pay back.  Personally, I would never recommend anybody take on six figure debt for public policy school, for starters because the amount of interest that accrues on that by itself can be overwhelming on a public sector salary.  It can definitely be managed (especially with income-based repayment), but definitely think about how much you expect to be making after grad school and what your other financial goals will be such as buying a house or saving for retirement.
  5. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from lottesnk in Value of MPA Rankings   
    I'll start by saying I'm biased, I'm currently at Maxwell and I love it.

    That said, yes of course I am skeptical of the rankings, mostly because I question whether "deans, directors and department chairs" really know much about the quality of other programs across the country. And since I've only attended one program, I'm not in a position to rank schools either.

    However, I do have a good sense of what is good at Maxwell and what isn't, and personally I do feel the specialties rankings do reflect some reality regarding the relative strength of Maxwell in certain areas versus others. For example, it makes sense to me that Maxwell is not as highly ranked in policy analysis as it is in other areas, as some have noted, because that's not the main focus of the MPA. One of the differences I've noted between Maxwell and other programs is the fact that there's only one semester of micro required for the MPA (probably because it's a one year program) and I think that's reflected in the policy analysis rankings. On the other hand, there are a ton of really knowlegeable faculty here in the area of public management and some really fantastic classes, and the same goes for public finance and budgeting; Maxwell is ranked #1 in these areas. So, in that sense, I am more impressed by the rankings than I expected to be.

    Is there a rankings game going on? I have no idea, but probably. Do Harvard, Columbia and Princeton have better programs? Certainly they are more selective, which is an advantage in and of itself. HKS will always have a better brand than Maxwell because it's Harvard, which attracts more applicants, which means that the people who get into and graduate from HKS must be very smart (before they got to HKS) and will go far in their careers, helped by a vast network of other smart (and well-connected) alumni. That doesn't necessarily mean that the teaching is better, though of course it's good to have smart classmates.

    As someone else has said, use the rankings as a starting point, but educate yourself about the programs by speaking with current students and alumni and look at what kinds of classes are offered at each school. For example, for the moment, Maxwell is not the best place to go to study international finance (public finance, yes). A degree from a brand name school will most likely have some benefits that you will not get from Maxwell, and no amount of US News rankings will change that. But people from Maxwell and other non brand name schools go on to have great careers, so do consider them!
  6. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from method in Value of MPA Rankings   
    I'll start by saying I'm biased, I'm currently at Maxwell and I love it.

    That said, yes of course I am skeptical of the rankings, mostly because I question whether "deans, directors and department chairs" really know much about the quality of other programs across the country. And since I've only attended one program, I'm not in a position to rank schools either.

    However, I do have a good sense of what is good at Maxwell and what isn't, and personally I do feel the specialties rankings do reflect some reality regarding the relative strength of Maxwell in certain areas versus others. For example, it makes sense to me that Maxwell is not as highly ranked in policy analysis as it is in other areas, as some have noted, because that's not the main focus of the MPA. One of the differences I've noted between Maxwell and other programs is the fact that there's only one semester of micro required for the MPA (probably because it's a one year program) and I think that's reflected in the policy analysis rankings. On the other hand, there are a ton of really knowlegeable faculty here in the area of public management and some really fantastic classes, and the same goes for public finance and budgeting; Maxwell is ranked #1 in these areas. So, in that sense, I am more impressed by the rankings than I expected to be.

    Is there a rankings game going on? I have no idea, but probably. Do Harvard, Columbia and Princeton have better programs? Certainly they are more selective, which is an advantage in and of itself. HKS will always have a better brand than Maxwell because it's Harvard, which attracts more applicants, which means that the people who get into and graduate from HKS must be very smart (before they got to HKS) and will go far in their careers, helped by a vast network of other smart (and well-connected) alumni. That doesn't necessarily mean that the teaching is better, though of course it's good to have smart classmates.

    As someone else has said, use the rankings as a starting point, but educate yourself about the programs by speaking with current students and alumni and look at what kinds of classes are offered at each school. For example, for the moment, Maxwell is not the best place to go to study international finance (public finance, yes). A degree from a brand name school will most likely have some benefits that you will not get from Maxwell, and no amount of US News rankings will change that. But people from Maxwell and other non brand name schools go on to have great careers, so do consider them!
  7. Downvote
    MaxwellAlum reacted to adollarninetynine in Value of MPA Rankings   
    lol if you actually think syracuse is better than WWS and HKS, you are in for a rude awakening. people from syracuse always bring up the #1 US news rankings to justify their decision to "choose" maxwell over WWS/HKS (they got rejected in truth). maxwell, although it is a good school, is nowhere near the top of the list when it comes to elite MPP/MPA programs. i have yet to see anyone who has turned down WWS for maxwell or has chosen HKS over maxwell with funding between relatively equal.
  8. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from JAC16 in GSPIA/American/Maxwell   
    I'm fairly certain that you'll be given the opportunity to take waiver exams for statistics and economics (I can't imagine they'd change this!). I haven't ever tried to take a Ph.D. class, but I've heard a professor in the economics department allowing this for a student who had the prerequisites . It depends on the department and the professor, I believe. Tuition is per credit, so you will have to pay extra for classes that you want to take for credit. On the other hand, most professors do allow students to audit classes, which means you do all of the work for the class but you don't get a formal grade for it (I think that it does show up on your transcript). Auditing is free, and I haven't heard of this policy changing at all. If I were you, I would just call (calling is preferable to e-mail, I think) the admissions office and double check on all of these questions.

    In terms of whether the degree is less rigorous than other degrees that are longer, it's hard for me to say since I haven't done the other programs. (On a side note, one of the things I don't like about the IR program is that you have to pay to do your internship, since you take it for credit, but that's only 3 credits). I'm also doing a dual degree (MPA and MAIR) in part because I felt that the 12 month MPA program was too short; I just like being a student too much. You could potentially do a dual degree with economics if you wanted a longer degree - there's several people who do the dual MAIR/MA Econ.

    I don't think that the length of the degree means that it's easier - I have had to work hard for all of my classes. I do think it's indicative of the fact that it's a professional degree and they are catering to people who want to get back into the workforce as soon as possible. One possible disadvantage for you is that in the IR program you do not write a thesis, which would be helpful for a Ph.D. if that's your aim. There is the option of doing an independent study which basically amounts to writing a very long paper (basically a thesis), and you may wish to ask also about this possibility.



  9. Upvote
    MaxwellAlum got a reaction from greendiplomat in Princeton: Woodrow Wilson School   
    As a student at the "number 1 ranked public affairs program" I'd say that the rankings are a good tool for identifying strong programs, especially those in lesser known schools. I know I wouldn't have otherwise thought to look at the Maxwell School (Syracuse). However, it does not make sense to choose Maxwell over Harvard purely because of the rankings. For that, they are really meaningless. Nobody is going to hire you because a magazine rated your grad program number 1 and not number 2.

    The MPA program at the Maxwell School is really great. I suspect the ranking comes from both the fact that it is a strong program, and that it's also the oldest one. Maxwell alumni are everywhere in DC and that can really mean a lot.

    But while my classmates are amazing people with very strong resumes and a passionate commitment to public service, I know that it's harder to get into Harvard, Columbia and definitely Princeton. So those schools probably have stronger reputations than Maxwell in most circles (most notably, I imagine, in the private sector). There is a definite advantage to studying with the very best of the best, and Princeton is probably the place for this.

    At the end of the day the Maxwell School is the perfect place for me for reasons that have little to do with rankings. Look at rankings when you're choosing which schools to apply to (alongside the Foreign Policy magazine rankings if you're interested in international stuff), but also think about what the best fit is for you.
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